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US announces over US$1 million for Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Defence project

The US Ambassador to Sri Lanka announced over US $1 million would be provided to fund a people trafficking prevention project that is being run with the country’s ministry of defence, an institution that is accused of a range of rights abuses and still headed by an accused war criminal.

“The US is committed to ending human trafficking in all its forms,” said Julie Chung in a tweet with photographs from her attendance at in Colombo earlier today.

Chung added the funds would be used “to protect and support trafficking survivors – and to ensure perpetrators of these terrible crimes are held accountable”.

Sri Lanka’s defence secretary who currently oversees all work that the ministry carries out is Kamal Gunaratne, an accused war criminal who played a leading role in the 2009 Mullivaikkal genocide. To date, he and several other Sri Lankan military and political leaders, have not been held accountable.

The project, entitled “Strengthening Government and CSO Capacity to Combat Trafficking in Persons and Create Greater Impact”, will be run with the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

The funding also comes despite the American’s own acknowledgement that Sri Lanka’s official complicity in human trafficking was “a serious problem” in a 2016 United States State Department report on human trafficking.

Previously Sri Lankan navy soldiers have been found to be complicit in the trafficking of Tamil asylum seekers, charging exorbitant prices to allow them to flee the island.

Sri Lankan state complicity with paramilitary groups who ran child prostitution smuggling rings from Sri Lanka to India and Malaysia has also been well documented.

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